Spring Fever

April 2010

Once upon a time Elvis sang:

“Open your eyes the sky is full of butterflies

The blossoms on the trees stir up the honey bees

Spring makes my fever right

Spring fever, Spring is here at last

Spring fever, my heart’s beating fast

Get up, get out spring is everywhere*”

I have a serious case of spring fever.  I mentioned this to my class of college freshmen one recent Monday morning and they appeared confused by the name of this condition.  One kind young man asked if that was like allergies or congestion.  Ah, yes,  spring fever that sense of excitement, restlessness and a desire to to get outside hits me every year.

Obviously I was the only one in the classroom that was wanting to cut class as a result of  the change of seasons!  For me it is a desire to be outside looking for signs of spring renewal in my garden.  Living in Phoenix this condition strikes early in February when daffodils and wildflowers begin their bloom.  I wander out studying the ground, examining  the sprouts encouraging the flowers and pulling the weeds.

If I add a little travel in late March I can extend that excitement of spring and Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge, CA is the place for a spectacular spring display.  In 1936, E. Manchester Boddy, planted a dozen camellias.  Boddy, the highly successful publisher of the old Los Angeles Daily News purchased some 400 acres in the San Rafeal hills.  Though Rancho del Descanso translates to “where I rest” it is hard to believe any resting ever occurred.  With his passion for camellias and the funds to hire a world famous camellia expert, Howard Asper, Boddy fueled a national passion for camellias in corsages.  According to KathleenMcCormick’s Garden Lover’s Guide to the West, during the peak of his hobby Descanso gardens had 600,000 camellia plants.

Today thousands & thousands of camellias bloom in March and April, in shades of red, pink and white.  These plants are now small trees in what remains perhaps the largest camellia garden in the country.  The plants are shaded by a 20 acre stand of Live Oak trees which filter the sunlight and provide a canopy of shade for both the plants and the garden lovers strolling by.

Boddy also hired Walter Lammerts to develop lilacs that could thrive in the warmer climate of southern California.  For a brief time in late March and early April 500 hybridized lilac bushes burst into bloom and provide the intoxicating scent of  spring that I remember from my childhood.

If your sense of spring longs for tulips, iris, flowering fruit trees, forsythia, lilacs, camellias, and clusters of wisteria draping over the wall, then Descanso gardens is your cure for a serious case of spring fever.  As the song says. .

“Just grab a car or hop a bus.

there’s excitement to be found.

Don’t miss the joy of spring

The world’s in love just look around.

Spring fever comes to everyone,

Spring fever, it’s time for fun!*

music & lyrics by Giant – Baum – Kaye)

originally published in Roots & Shoots 

@http://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/mgcentral/uploads/RSApr10.pdf

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